Tidbits: Idahoan, Rice-A-Roni, Nature's Way

  • Article by: AL SICHERMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2013 - 2:16 PM

They do the mash

The folks at Idahoan have been far busier than Mr. Tidbit would have guessed at churning out different flavors of their mashed-potato product (boil water on stovetop or microwave, add milk, stir in potato flakes and let stand briefly: there’s your mashed potatoes). There are now 12 varieties, including new Applewood Smoked Bacon flavor and Bacon and Cheddar Chipotle flavor.

If boiling water is just too much trouble, now there are microwave cups in five of those flavors, and they take only 1 ½ minutes to cook, plus a minute of standing time. Each microwave cup makes 1 ½ (½-cup) servings, but Mr. Tidbit finds it difficult to picture somebody else getting in there and eating that extra half-serving, so it’s probably more accurate to say that each microwave cup makes one (¾-cup) serving.

Do you assume that the microwave-cup products are priced in line with the larger four-serving packets? If so, you must be new to the planet. At two of the stores Mr. Tidbit checked, the 1 ½-serving microwave cups and the four-serving packets were selling for the same price, so the microwave cups cost an extra 167 percent per serving.

Ding, ding!

Something similar is happening just down the aisle at Rice-A-Roni, where the 20 “classic” flavors, two lower-sodium versions and three Nature’s Way (no preservatives or artificial flavors) varieties of “the San Francisco treat” are now joined by three flavors in single-serve microwave cups.

The microwave cups cook in 3 ½ minutes, while the regular three-serving product calls for browning, bringing to a boil and simmering 15 to 20 minutes, so these microwave cups do offer a considerable convenience.

Do you assume that the microwave-cup products are priced in line with the larger three-serving boxes? If so, you must be new to the planet. (Mr. Tidbit loves consistency: Instead of spending long hours at his desk coming up with new trenchant observations, he can use cut-and-paste and go to lunch.) At two of the stores Mr. Tidbit checked, the single-serving microwave cups and the three-serving boxes were selling for the same price, so the microwave cups cost an extra 200 percent per serving.

Al Sicherman

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